Non-diet nutrition

Evaluating your relationship to alcohol with Amanda Kuda

In this episode, Claire sits down with alcohol-free lifestyle expert and life coach, Amanda Kuda.

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Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode, that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can flourish in life.

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Claire Siegel: Hey, y'all welcome back to the Nutritional Freedom podcast. Today's episode is a fun one because I'm joined by a guest!

So I've got Amanda Kuda with me. She is a friend of mine, and I was so excited to get her recording session booked because I just know that today's episode is going to really make you think.

Now... Amanda works with women. She helps women tap into their true potential and live more authentically by going alcohol-free. And I've had a lot of interesting conversations with our members and Nutritional Freedom about, you know, of course their relationship to food, their relationship to their body, and it's not uncommon that, you know, their relationship to alcohol comes up.

And so I was absolutely delighted to have Amanda on today. I think you're really going to enjoy hearing her story and her experience. And I asked her the questions that I thought you would want the answer to. So enjoy, take a moment to, you know, think about your own relationship with alcohol, and, and decide, you know, what you may want to explore in that arena after hearing today's episode. Enjoy!

All right. Welcome back to the Nutritional Freedom podcast. I am joined by my friend, Amanda Kuda. Amanda, before this episode I was trying to remember how we met, and I cannot remember. I know we've done so many things and traveled in so many similar circles, I suppose you could say.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah, let me think. I wonder if it is more... you know, for a while you were doing meetups back when you were in the corporate world. And I wonder if it was either that, or when I was in the corporate world, I worked in a corporate restaurant. So it could have been through the food world because our worlds might've collided in that way.

Claire Siegel: That's true. That is true. Yeah, I think I, I think I came to your restaurant and we did a tasting. And I had knew of you before then I think it was one of those things where we will, at some point, meet. And then we, and we did. And you came and spoke at our retreat last year, which feels like about a bazillion years ago.

We'll have to do that again, where we're actually just starting to plan our 2021 retreat for our clients, but neither here nor there. So with that, you're not working in corporate restaurants anymore. So tell us just real quick: Who are you? What do you do? And then we're going to get into kind of some, um, definitions.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. So my name is Amanda Kuda. I am a life and mindset coach, and I specialize in like the niche-iest of niches. I work with high achieving women who are social or gray area drinkers who want to quit drinking so that they can step into their fullest potential. And... so some of that work, um, is helping people, helping women specifically navigate the new path of quitting alcohol and what that looks like in their social life and, um, and beyond.

I really don't work with women, um, just to be clear, I don't work with women who are needing a lot of support in quitting. This is, "Hey, I know I can do it, but I just don't know what the world looks like when I make this change."

Um, and then I also work with, um, higher level clients who are ready to quit or they've already quit and they want to up-level their lives. They want to access all of the personal development tools, all of the spiritual development tools that I have accumulated in the past five or six years as a coach and as someone who's living this lifestyle myself. And so I really stepped into also just like higher level VIP mentorship of alcohol-free women, which is really, really fun.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Okay. So you mentioned a couple phrases there that I think are worth digging into before we continue the conversation. So. First of all, I want to hear "gray area drinking."

I remember the first time you told, you said that phrase, I was like, that is such a thing and I can't really describe it. But I'm pretty sure, like, I would probably think I am a gray area drinker. I may be personally a little bit of like the light gray area. Um, but what is gray area drinking?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah, so, you know, there's a spectrum. And I, I want to be forthcoming here that I was never at the, um, let's say the deeper end of the spectrum that common nomenclature would be addiction, recovery, AA. Um, you know, some of those more intense words.

Now, I just want to be clear that there are... I'm not trying to belittle anyone who that... like that is a very real thing to have a physical and mental addiction to alcohol. And, um, and fortunately, I guess we could say only a very small percent of the population falls into that very drastic percentage of people with an addiction.

Then there's the light end of the spectrum that are people who are every once in a while drinkers, take it or leave it, really, um, able to moderate on their own very rarely drink whatsoever. And then there was everything in the middle that is the gray area. And that is where most of us fall. The gray area though tends to be a little more on the moderate to heavy side. Most people who are in that gray area.

And that, um, usually includes people who are social drinkers like I was. And that is, you know, kind of the person who doesn't drink very much throughout the week, but they drink Friday, Saturday, Sunday, pretty heavily. Or it might also include someone who is drinking pretty consistently, just a few glasses throughout the week, every, every single night. Like that is almost a ritual of sorts.

So the gray area is basically anything between, um, addiction rock bottom and every now and again, take it or leave it. Yeah.

Claire Siegel: Okay. So I'm probably in that every now and again, take it or leave at camp for the most part. Especially I find the older I get the less interested I am in alcohol. So that's, that's super interesting, but there have definitely been times where I was probably more right in that like gray area... definitely in college.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah, absolutely.

Claire Siegel: So, okay. So you also mentioned alcohol-free. Um, and so I'm curious, like what is... what does it mean to be alcohol-free, and perhaps how is that different for someone maybe with like alcohol dependency who's choosing sobriety?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. I choose the phrase "alcohol-free" because to me that's more of a lifestyle that I've decided on. It's no different to me than gluten-free or dairy-free. It is I've chosen to be free from alcohol. I've elected that lifestyle. And that's just the terminology that I use because the terminology that goes along with traditional kind of like 12-step sobriety can be very isolating to people.

So if you don't feel that you fit into that camp, it can be just because there's not a name or a classification for who you are and what you're trying to do. It can be a reason to not pursue a lifestyle that you're interested in because it can make it seem like no one else, you know, no one else is doing it.

And for myself, that's one of the reasons that I continued my drinking and my style for so long because there wasn't, um, you know, any anyone talking about, "Oh, there's this area in the center where you can not have a problem, but still choose to quit."

And alcohol-free kind of is just, "Hey, this is a lifestyle choice" rather than "This is something that I had to do to stay alive."

Claire Siegel: Yeah, that's interesting. Kind of the spectrum that you're speaking to, it makes me think, and in our space, kind of the, the difference between someone who's like a chronic dieter versus someone who experiences disordered eating versus someone, you know, with a diagnosed eating disorder.

And there is this, you know, maybe mental grappling that someone may be on the, the kind of lighter end of that spectrum may have like, "Oh, I'm not, I'm not sick enough to need support. Or, you know, I, I know I don't have any eating disorder, so I don't really need to like, address this."

But just because you're not, you know, further down that spectrum doesn't necessarily mean that you couldn't really benefit from, from that support or, you know, choosing to, I guess maybe in our case go diet-free versus alcohol-free. But yeah, I totally hear you.

Amanda Kuda: No. And it's the, that is a really big and important conversation to have because especially the way society and your friends and the people who surround you, if you're atkind of the lower to mid end. You will hear that repeated back. Like, "Oh, you're not that bad. Like you don't have a problem. There's no reason."

And people, um, kind of coddle you and try and get you to stay the same. And sometimes that is about the fact that you, you know, put on such a show that people think that you do really have it altogether when inside, you know, that you don't.

But it's also often because it makes people uncomfortable when you say that, "Oh, maybe I have a problem with this," because that then insinuates that, oh, well you could have... if I can have a problem, you can have a problem too. And it makes it a really sticky conversation because people will try to talk you out of leveling up because it makes them uncomfortable.

Claire Siegel: Absolutely. It's definitely a mirror that gets held up. Right? Even though you can know in your own... in your, in your heart that like, "Hey, I need to make some different, I need to make some changes for me and my health and what I want for my life." It is for everyone on the outside a signal that, hey, yeah, you, you might want to try this too. Even though it's not about that at all. In some cases, at least.

Amanda Kuda: No, absolutely.

Claire Siegel: I love it.

So I want to hear more kind of about your story and how you made this transition. I'd love to hear more about kind of what your life looked like when you were a gray area drinker and what did your journey to actually being alcohol-free... what did that look like? And where are you now?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. Thank you for asking. I think this is a conversation I started to have a little more openly over the past, you know, six to twelve months because I realized that I've had a little more of a realization of why I started drinking the way that I did. Which again, wasn't unhealthy, but it certainly, wasn't a great relationship with alcohol.

And I think that a lot of people resonate with it—especially people, um, a lot of times people who have any sort of obsessive, if you will, behavior, with food or with alcohol or ritualized behavior or overindulgent behavior. Um, it trickles over to one, one or the other. And I... and a lot of them have the same characteristics if you look back in their timeline.

So for me, I was always, let's say just an unusual, unique child. I was, kind of, I wouldn't say that I was like smarter. I just was thinking about different things at a different level than a lot of the kids around me. I just had this like high sensitivity to where I could, you know, I experienced emotions at a different level than other children around me.

And I started to realize it, but I didn't really know... I didn't have any terminology for it. I didn't have anyone saying, "Oh, Hey Amanda, it seems like you're highly sensitive or it seems like you might be, um, you know, a little intuitive. Here, here are some tools for you. Here's a book to read."

It was just... oh, I'm weird. All the other kids don't act like me and don't think like me. And so I started at a really young age becoming cognizant of this fact that there are certain things that you have to do to fit in. There are certain ways of behaving that will make you fit in. And so I started to become this little bit of a chameleon to, you know, leave behind some of the things that were innate to me and do some of the more popular things that it seemed that the popular kids were doing to basically all be the same.

And that's really sad, but I think we all do that in some sense, especially those of us who are very high achieving, very high functioning, very intelligent, very emotionally intelligent. We start to dull ourselves down because we see that, that the excellence and the sparkle that we have, isn't, what's getting, you know, the guy on the football team to pay attention to you. Or isn't what's getting you on the cheerleading squad.

And so I think that as I share this more and more, so many people resonate with this feeling of making yourself small unwittingly in order to fit in with everyone else.

And one of the ways that I was able to do that in late adolescence was with drinking. Drinking was a way for me to stop standing out. It wasn't... I used to say it was a way for me to fit in, but then I looked back and I'm like... no, it's actually what I was doing so that I wouldn't stand out, so that I wouldn't be unique.

And that's really messed up, but a lot of us do that. A lot of us, um, change what we, how we act, what we put into our bodies in order to, um, not stand out and be different than other people.

And it's a tool in two different ways, because first of all, it helps you to be more like other people, but it also helps you forget—this is me getting a little woo-woo—but like, forget your soul's purpose. When you dull yourself down, when you dilute yourself with alcohol, it also helps you kind of escape and detach from those other parts of yourself that feel different, feel unique. And it helps you, you know, just achieve this lifestyle that is very mundane and average.

And, and please, I'm not trying to, I'm not trying to insult anyone who is a drinker. I've obviously been there. But as I look at this situation from the outside and analyze it a little more, I see that people who drink... it's a tool. It's always a tool.

And I realized that I was doing that. I was using this as a tool to make myself like everyone else and to fit in or to not stand out and to keep myself small, to keep myself from shining at my brightest. Because at some level I was afraid of what that would look like. And I was afraid of, you know, what people might think of me if I were allowed to just be this big, bold person who I was at my core.

And, um, of course it also seemed fun at the time. You know you're—I was in, you know, late high school, early college when I started drinking. So I drank through college and that was a way for me to come out of my shell even more.

And it did serv—it served as a tool in many ways to help me be a little more outgoing and be a little bit more social. But then it became to where I didn't know how to do things without the tool at all. It's like, if you bowled with the bumpers your entire life and then you take those little bumpers down... you're going to hit the gutter and you're going to suck really bad at bowling for a while.

And that's kind of how, you know, why I felt I needed—and why many of us feel we need—to quit drinking is because we don't know how to get on socially without it. But at some point in my early thirties, I just started feeling like.. This can't be all there is.

I'm working my ass off nine to five, Monday through Friday. I'm going out for drinks with my friends Friday night, because I need to, you know, need to, want to, deserve to, blow off steam. And I want to socialize. Um, that always turned into staying out all, all Friday night. Then often turned into brunch on Saturday or going out on Saturday, usually going out on Saturday night and maybe even doing something Sunday! It was just this social hamster wheel that I was on that seemed fun and glamorous. You really realize it was super exhausting and really redundant.

And I just had this moment of there has to be more than this. I meant for something different than this lifestyle. And I don't think that I can do Monday through Friday, what I'm intended to do with my life if I keep living this life Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

And it was a scary path to go on because at that point—this is four years ago—there was no one talking about being alcohol-free. It was... if you, if you are questioning your relationship with alcohol, you're probably an alcoholic and you need to go to AA, and that did not feel right at all.

And so I kept like... "Ooh, maybe I should just, maybe I should just make this work. I'll figure it out. I'll figure out how to moderate or I'll figure out how to make this lifestyle jive with, um, with everything else that I want to do in life." And unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, at some point I realized that just wasn't going to happen, so I needed to earnestly give being alcohol-free a try.

And once I did that... I mean, there's certainly much more to the story, but everything transformed, everything changed. Everything that I dreamt of started to come to fruition because I had freed up this energetic and physical space to go after my dreams.

And yeah, I can say that right now, I'm living a life that I never... I mean, I imagined I would live it, but I didn't fully know how I would get there. And it all is because I made that decision to double down and commit to myself. And yeah, so that's how I got here.

Claire Siegel: I love it. And you didn't start by saying, "I'm not drinking again it for the rest of my life, right?Didn't you start with like a finite period of time?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. Never... never say forever. That is the first advice I can give to anyone because, um, it's much like, um, diet culture. When you deprive yourself with something, when you say, "you cannot have this," there was all these rules then you start to rebel a little bit. And you can start to kind of say, "Screw you system."

And so I set first, my, I set just a 30-day goal. I did a dry January. Um, and then at the end of that, I realized, you know, 30 days really isn't going to do much, even though I had secretly hoped that it would. I really had this pipe dream that 30 days I would just be... everything would be perfect. Not true.

Um, so then I went 60 days, then went 90 days. And at 90 I really started to see some massive transformation. And at that point it wasn't worth it to backpedal. And I said, I'm doing the full year. And if something changes and I decide to drink, so be it. But right now this feels so good that I owe myself a year. I owe myself a year of being alcohol-free.

And after that year hit, it just kind of sunk in that I felt so powerful. I didn't need alcohol at all.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Tell me a little bit more. You said all these transformation started happening at 90 days. Like what... I don't know... what were like the top things that you kind of noticed?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. So I definitely want to touch on some of the myths that we hear about alcohol, specifically from a physical and nutritional standpoint, since I know that will appeal to your listener. But we are always sold this tale of, "Oh, if you quit drinking alcohol, here's what's going to happen. Your skin's going to clear up. You're going to lose weight. You're going to sleep better. You're going to, you know, save money and all of these things." There's always like the cosmopolitan list of all of the cool things that will happen to you.

Well, those things don't happen immediately because the way that alcohol works is it's a foreign substance in your body. We all have like DARE class or health. We know that alcohol isn't good for you, but let me just remind you that it is ethanol mixed with sugar so that you can tolerate it.

And your body, when it doesn't know how to process something, stores it and just keeps kind of recycling it. It doesn't like flush it out or detox it like we've been sold like, "Oh, just drink this charcoal drink and you'll be okay. You know, your alcohol will go away." It doesn't work people. So it's your, your liver, which is where alcohol is processed we know is a pantry. And a pantry stores things. And so when it doesn't know what to do with it, it stores it and keeps it in there. And slowly, slowly, slowly flushes it out of your system.

But it doesn't happen after 30 days. It doesn't happen after 60 days, and 90 days is really when you start seeing that stuff start to flush out. So yes, of course, you're going to have clearer skin. You're going to have, start to sleep better at that, at that point. Um, that's the point when things really start to, to level out in your system.

Um, this is my like armchair doctor explanation, by the way. Um, In addition to those physical effects that you start to get, you just start to have, if you're doing work on yourself, which I highly recommend, you start to get this sense of confidence that you didn't have before. You start to believe in yourself and trust yourself. And your sense of self-worth is going to start to increase.

And in my model of the universe, self-worth is the currency for manifestation. It's the currency for calling into your life whatever it is that you deserve and desire. If you believe you're worthy and you're showing up and doing the things that tell the universe or other people, whatever you want to call it, that you are worthy, then the things that you want are going to start to become magnetized to you. Where before they were in your orbit.. They didn't like, you didn't quite match up, right?

So I would start to meet friends who were like-minded, who, you know, like yourself that you are not, you're not alcohol-free, but you're also not a big drinker. And I've never done anything with you that I can think of that involves alcohol. So—

Claire Siegel: I'm trying to think in my head, I'm like, when was the last time I drank alcohol? I'm not really sure.

Amanda Kuda: That like, those are the types of friends that I have now. They're not all alcohol-free, but they started to just automatically, I would sync up with them. Um, I started to attract money and jobs and opportunities professionally that were not available to me before. I, you know, started attracting a different type of romantic partner that was way different than I had, as you might imagine, attracted out like on the party scene.

And things just started to click into place. And yes, I was behaving differently, but I was also behaving differently because I had the confidence to do so. And so it's this conglomeration of all of these things coming together.

But for me, showing up for myself and saying, "I'm going to do something drastically different, radically different than anyone else I know and see how this works." And it just so happened that it was the catalyst to every other great change that happened in my life, in my opinion.

Claire Siegel: That's so cool. That is so cool to think about. It was like sitting here thinking of like, maybe I'll go alcohol-free for Q1 of 2021. Who knows? I think I actually did that last year.

Amanda Kuda: It's a great experience, especially if you have, you know, like someone like me or someone like you... I have big things to do in this world. I don't have time to be hung over. I don't have time to be fuzzy headed. I want to be at my full capacity all the time. And being an alcohol-free is the only way that I can think of to do that.

And I recommend it to anyone to take at least a long break at some point long enough for you to really truly feel the effects of being alcohol-free, because you can't imagine what you can accomplish in that time if you have something big that you're shooting for.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Okay. I'm curious because I have a feeling this, I mean, everything that we've been talking about and maybe even just this, uh, idea, concept of like a gray area drinker. I think there's probably a lot of us who really resonate with that as, as the said, like at points in my life, I definitely have.

In the women that you work with, I guess, do you see kind of like common characteristics between amongst those women, I guess, um, or kind of common characteristics of women who would really benefit from going alcohol-free?

Amanda Kuda: Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, everyone would definitely benefit, but the types of people who are called to it and who are curious about it, I guess.

Because here's, here's the deal. I'm not on a mission to make everyone sober or alcohol-free. I, you know, from a spiritual standpoint, I believe that everyone has a Dharma to fulfill in this lifetime. And some people's Dharma is just to like go along their way and live their party lifestyle. And for those people, it will never even occur to them.

They're probably not even listening tothis episode because of whatever was in the title. It would never occur to them that their life could be better without alcohol. That's cool. We need those people in this world.

Then there are people who have this tiny curiosity. They wonder they, you know, wonder if their life could be better without it. They wonder if maybe they're drinking too much. They wonder if maybe they should change the way that they drink. Um, they're tired of being hung over. So it's these people who start to get a little notion.

And in my world, you don't get that notion if you wouldn't benefit from it in some way. If you're not meant to try it out, it would never even be a thought in your head. So if you ever have that thought in your head, then I think that that is the first sign that you would benefit from this. And the first sign that you probably have big things, more important things, better things to do in your life. And that the universe is sending you a signal that this might be a, a catalyst to help you get there.

But most of the women who I work with are high achievers. So they're kicking ass in their career. Um, they're the type of people who you would never assume that—oh my dog's back here.

Claire Siegel: I forgot you have a dog. This is amazing.

Amanda Kuda: He always sits right behind me when I podcast. So I digress, but they are high achievers. They're kicking ass. They are people who you would look at them and think, "Oh my gosh, you are doing so well. Like you can't possibly have any sort of issue with alcohol."

And they're the type of people who show up, who are, you know, just really super high achievers. Also quite frequently, they have some other characteristics.

Um, there are highly sensitive. They're the type of people who just are really affected by the emotions and the world around them, um, or they're very empathic. Those are two like kind of somewhat interchangeable words. So you experience emotions very deeply. You experienced the emotions of others. You often find yourself, um, having other people's emotions rub off on you. Um, or maybe you're even, you know, just someone who's a little, um, on the intuitive scale. You have like a sense of knowing about things. You have a really good intuition.

And some of those more sensitive kind of woo-woo words are important because those are things that make us in this world quote, unquote weird. And one of the reasons that we tend to dull ourselves down because we need a way to not feel as weird.

And so a lot of the women who I work with are on that spectrum in some way. And a lot of the women who I work with are in the midst of a big transition. They are uncoupling from a relationship, from a marriage, from a long-term partner, from a fiancé. They are ready to change their career. They're ready to either really grow in the area that they're at, or they need to step out, they're ready to become an entrepreneur and go out on their own.

They have some sort of big change on the horizon, or they have a vision for how their life is going to be more miraculous than it is right now. And, um, yeah, those are the kind of the archetype, archetypes of, of women who see this as a possibility or are curious about this lifestyle.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. I love what you said about, like, if you have the thought that this may benefit you... it likely will. Or it's certainly worth exploring because, cause why not? If you feel, um, yeah, if you feel like this is resonating, if you feel called to this... I feel similarly about women that are drawn to our program.

It's like, if, if what I'm saying is resonating with you or four out of five things I'm saying is resonating with you, then like, yeah there's probably something here. Even if the language we're using isn't exactly, you know, the language that you use, perhaps like that gray area drinker. But I think that's, that's awesome.

Now what about the fears? Cause I feel like that is probably such a tough thing to overcome, right? Like even me sitting here, I would say I'm a very light gray area drinker. I'm like, oh, I could go alcohol-free for 90 days and January, you know, in 2021. But you know, what about this event or that event?

Like, I have a lot of like, whether it's fears, excuses... what, what comes up for the women that you work with when they're either like deciding to alcohol-free? And then what comes up when they're actually like doing it?

Amanda Kuda: Oh yeah.

So the common fears are, first of all, that this has to be a forever decision, that you have to jump all the way in the pool all at once. And that's not true. That's why I say don't ever commit to forever right off the bat. That's something that will come in time when it feels good. You wouldn't like go on a first date with someone and get married to them right away, unless you're on reality TV. Um, that's, it's just not something you would do. You don't commit, commit to it forever right off the bat.

The next is being afraid of what do you do at XYZ event? A wedding, my wedding, um, a birthday party, a happy hour. All of these. "Oh, well there... um, you know, I don't know how to navigate that situation or I have these things on the calendar. I'm going to wait for a more convenient time."

And to that, I would say that there's never going to be a convenient time. No matter what it is in your life. If you have a goal you're striving for it, there will never be a fully convenient time where the universe will open up and give you a full pathway. Um, there will always be a wedding to toast, a sorrow to drown. There will always be a reason to have a drink in this world because we're overall this obsessed with alcohol. And you just have to decide, is this worth... am I worth this, or am I going to keep making excuses?

Some of the other fears, though, are mostly to do with social situations and how you navigate those... how you tell people you're not drinking, what people will think of you when you tell them you're not drinking. Will they think you're an alcoholic?

Um, what do you do? What do you say? How do you, you know, how do you navigate these common situations that we've never been taught to navigate? And how do we do it proudly instead of being nervous and having shame around something that should be a completely normal conversation.

You don't see people who are, gluten-free like, "Oh, I'm so afraid to tell people that I'm not eating gluten." Like it's become something that's just common language. And that's not the type of thing that, you know, people don't really have with alcohol yet because it is so socially acceptable.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Or, I mean, eat this just occurred to me. Like, yes, people may assume or wonder if you have like a, a dependency, um, issue, but also I think, or they might think, "Oh, she's pregnant," which that can bring up a whole host of other things that are just no one's freaking business.

Um, but yeah, I mean, gosh, I know like I'm certainly of the age where my friends, a lot of my friends got married a couple of years ago, and I know when we go to social situations, everyone's looking, who's having a glass of wine who isn't. And if they're not having a glass of wine, oh, they must be pregnant. And like, that's how, I mean, that's how rumors get started.

It can definitely be just... we, of course, have so many fears around what people are going to think about us, what they're going to say about us. Oh, am I going to make them feel uncomfortable based on the choices that I make? Well, if that's going to happen, I'd rather make myself feel uncomfortable to make others feel okay. Which is just... It's totally backwards.

Amanda Kuda: It's completely backwards. And I would say that another characteristic of women who, um, have a hard time are people-pleasers in some way. They want other people to feel so comfortable that they're willing to sacrifice their own comfort, their own desires, their own goals and dreams in order to acquiesce to someone else's comfort. And we don't need to do that. We don't.

Claire Siegel: No. That's interesting. I wonder how much of that is also kind of loops back to that like highly sensitive or like empathic thing. Right? Because now we're like layering all these things together, but like, if I show up in a space and I take an action that makes you feel uncomfortable and I'm highly sensitive to that, well, then now I'm like doubly uncomfortable, right? Because I did that to you. So I'd rather just cut to the chase, sacrifice my own feelings, make sure that you're okay, and then I can move on happily quote, unquote normal.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. Nope. You nailed it. That if you are able to feel someone's feelings, you automatically feel responsible for them and therefore are more likely to take on behaviors that give them a positive outcome rather than you.

Claire Siegel: Yeah. Geez, this is like, I mean, this is really challenging. It's not just, you know, ordering, uh, I don't know a mocktail on a date. I mean, it's, it goes much deeper than that.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. It's... and the way that I work is a lot of, a lot different than many of the coaches because I really do mindset work to help you retrain the way that you think about showing up in the world. And we've trained ourselves to believe that we have to have alcohol.

And it takes a lot of unlearning in order to figure out how you're going to get on in the world without this substance kind of at your side. And how you're going to navigate these conversations with other people. And how you're going to get through first dates and weddings and vacations and all of the places where the world would tell you this is accented with a cocktail.

And, and it's easier always to have someone hold your hand and show you how to do it rather than you just learning how to do it yourself.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Can we spend a little bit of time talking about dating? Cause I think, I think a lot of my audience members are our single dating, and I would say the dates are probably like one of the number one things that would maybe keep them from exploring this even for 30 days, 90 days, whatever. So, I dunno, give me like your spark notes guide to dating as someone who's alcohol-free.

Amanda Kuda: Oh yeah. This is one of my favorite topics. I would say, first of all, please know that I grew up an ugly duckling, awkward as hell. I did not get asked out on dates in high school. I did not get asked on dates, you know, up until I kind of came into my own into my twenties.

So know that everything that I have learned and that I will share and just through this conversation is a hundred percent very hard, researched and acted out lessons. Right? I came into my thirties. I had never been on a date or like all of my formative, romantic and sexual experiences were under the veil of alcohol.

So I had to completely relearn everything. So if I can relearn it, you can relearn it. And I would say that I'm pretty darn good at it for the most part. Like in situations that have a clear dating context. It is a rough... this is a place that trips a lot of people up because this is one place that they're really worried about being judged. And I know that I was worried about that as well. Um, and it's also a place where we use alcohol as a buffer, as a social lubricant, because it can be a very awkward, um, situation when you're dating.

So I actually have a course—it's called "mindful dating"—where I talk all about, um where I talk all about navigating dating apps and navigating the dating scene as an alcohol-free woman. And just being also just more mindful in general.

And it does feel tricky at first. It can feel so weird because you have to have a conversation with your date about, "Oh, I'm not drinking." um, and then do you even meet for drinks with them if that's what they've asked to do? And let me tell you, I made all the wrong decisions for you. So I feel very qualified to tell you which ways work out and which ways don't.

And in my world, it works out best if you disclose very early on that you're a non-drinker or that you're not currently drinking. And here's the place where many people go wrong though, is they kind of have that... they say I'm not drinking. Period. And they don't realize that, hey, for me to even relay that message is incredibly awkward. How do I expect the person on the other end of the conversation to have a comeback?

So I always really coach to... if you're going to, um, you know, navigate the dating world, you need to be ready to kind of be a teacher and hold a person's hand and say, "Okay, I'm actually not drinking. Could I suggest another activity that we could do?"

And for me, the best case scenario dating alcohol-free is making sure that you're in a place that you can really connect with the person. So I like to go on a lot of dates for coffee. I like to go on walks. I think that dating is one of the most important activities that you can be doing because that's how you choose your mate. So don't you want to be in full consciousness when you are potentially meeting your forever romantic partner? Um, it's really just a big mindset shift. It's really thinking about, okay. If this is my person, this could be my person.

This could be the one across the table. Don't I want to have those nerves. Do I want to have that butterfly feeling and have full command of every single emotion that's going on with me? So then I can really truly know if this is the guy or the gal for me?

Or if it's just someone who I'm accepting right now, because I'm feeling lonely or because I'm a little tipsy? And we've all been there where we've made a bad decision or, um, dated someone for too long or, you know, let something go on for longer than we wanted, because we weren't really sure.

But if you're coming into a conversation soberly you are pretty sure a lot faster than you would have been if you're, um, you're drinking. So. Oh man, I could talk about dating alcohol-free for the longest time because there's so many little nuances to navigate. But it is the best experience. You will meet much more high-caliber people who are serious about actually dating you. And you'll have better conversations.

Every date that I've gone on alcohol-free has been either a great connection, even if they weren't my person. Or it's been a really valuable lesson that I was able to reflect on. Um, rather than a lesson where I was just beating myself up because of something stupid I said or stupid I did. And it's been a very enlightening experience to be alcohol-free out on the dating scene.

Claire Siegel: That's so awesome. I've definitely gone on way too many second and third dates that I owed to like the second and third cocktail I had on the first date.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah, you're like, "Oh this was so fun!" But no! That person, if you don't... the last thing I'll say about this is that if you don't have the confidence that you can feel comfortable with the person, or if you don't have the confidence that you can have fun with a person without alcohol, then that's probably not your person. That is, that should be a red flag that that's not your person.

And I know that most of us are doing dating apps right now. We're basically blind dating into a situation, so that can be really nerve wracking to meet someone. But if you can go into it with the confidence that this could be your person, you don't need alcohol to meet the person that is your forever love. You just don't need it. It's not part of the equation.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, that's so true. I think back on Jon and I's relationship. And we definitely drank a bit, uh, or more than a bit on our first date, but I will say we immediately on our second and third dates, we did sober activities. And, and I think, whereas that was totally different.

I mean, my other dating experiences were like all alcohol, kind of, fueled. It was very much like, oh, where are we going to go for happy hour? Where are we going to for dinner? What bottle of wine should we get it? And. Again, like it kind of elongated relationships I didn't really probably need to have.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah, you weren't invested in. Absolutely. It's...

Claire Siegel: Totally.

Amanda Kuda: It's so much... It's worth the, the initial discomfort of getting used to being good at dating sober. It's definitely worth the discomfort.

Claire Siegel: I love that. Okay, so a question I have that I think also a lot of our listeners are having, but this may be more for my own personal use. Like I guess how black and white do you think this is?

Like, what are your thoughts on maybe just like cutting back on alcohol versus going alcohol-free for like a finite period of time versus going alcohol-free for good. Like, I don't know. How do you help maybe your, your clients figure that out?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. You know, I do have a lot of clients who, at some.. You know, usually at my clients start out with the goal of moderating. They would like to get to that point where there are take it or leave it person.

And, um, I'm not sure are you a, do you listen to Gretchen Rubin at all?

Claire Siegel: I do, yeah. Moderater versus abstainer.

Amanda Kuda: Okay, yeah. So you know the concept of moderator versus abstainer. And most of them, most of the women who I work with would love to be a moderator, but they're not a moderator.They're, they're an abstainer through and through, through every other thing in their life. Whether it be their workout regimen or their, you know, eating sweets or like putting a tray of cookies in front of them, it's all or nothing.

And that's how I was, I am built as an abstainer. It's all or nothing for me. And so I really just had to become comfortable with the idea that I could go all in and, and not having even the question of what it's going to be like to moderate really just gave me a lot of mental clarity. So I will say that if, if you're not familiar with just Google "Gretchen Rubin moderator versus abstainer," and that's, uh, that's a mindset that will give you a lot of clarity.

But I don't think you have to quit drinking forever. Um, I think that you will know at some point, if that's what's going to serve you. And I would just commit to doing small stretches. I honestly think though that you need a good 60 to 90 days to feel the effects physically, mentally, emotionally of being alcohol-free.

And I think that if you can do a full year, that's even better just because of the nature of alcohol. Like I said, it does stay in your system, um, quite a bit longer than you think. So if you want to feel the physical changes, you really need to give yourself some space for it from it.

And what I say is that you'll just know at some point. That you're going to feel, if you make a commitment to change your lifestyle, if you make a commitment to, um, doing some work, to undo some mindset patterns and some self-confidence things that are probably underneath your desire to drink, you're going to see a version of yourself that you don't want to let go of.

I mean, it just will become pretty clear that it's not worth the sacrifice to have the glass of wine because you really like the life that you built for yourself. And I do have clients though, that, um, that being said, that do decide to have a drink every now and then, and they do decide to have a glass of wine or a glass of champagne. But it's, it's more about giving yourself the initial space to really get it out of your physical and mental system so that you really have an honest assessment of what life could be like, um, without alcohol in the picture.

Claire Siegel: That's awesome. That makes a lot of sense. I always find the moderator versus abstainer conversations so interesting, because I also think with food. Sometimes it's that clear, and then sometimes, you know, with, with members that come into our community... they think that they're abstainers, but they're really just chronically dieting and are trying to give up all these foods and then find themselves bingeing it on the weekends.

So they're actually... we have to like remove all the diet BS, then you can actually figure out which one you are, otherwise there's too many confounding factors. But it is like an interesting thing to think about. I think personally I'm a moderator in some ways and then an abstainer in others, and it just really depends on a lot of different things.

Amanda Kuda: Depends on what it is. Yeah, for sure. And there's, there's no right way. There's no one way. Um, I just know what works for me and what tends to work with the women who I work with overall. And, um, typically, you know, with alcohol, because it is a chemical that does cause dependency, your body doesn't reset when you, you know, it's not like you're like a born again, alcohol virgin, if you don't have it for so many days.

Sooner rather than later, usually you get right back into the same pattern because your body has built up like, "Oh, my tolerance is level XYZ." and even though you don't go back to XYZ immediately, like that's the capacity you're set to be filled to. And most people find that they do get back to that. They just slowly, slowly, it just starts to creep up on you because, um, once you make one compromise, it's easy to compromise many, many more times.

Claire Siegel: It's true. It's also easier to compromise when you're drunk.

Amanda Kuda: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is so different than changing your relationship with food because you have to have food, right? And you have to fuel your body. Um, you don't have to have alcohol, but it is something that once you have a little of it, it completely clouds your judgment. It's not quite the same.

I mean, I guess you do get a similar placebo effect from like a cupcake, but you also can't physically eat as many cupcakes as you can drink drinks. You know, your body will keep taking it on whereas at some point you're just going to get over full. And so it's really dangerous, you know, the gray area is kind of dangerous just because there's no breaks once you get started. Because you start to get a little, um, you know, you just want to play the game. You're all in. You want to have more drinks. You want to have more fun. You don't want the party to end. And it's, it's a slippery slope.

Claire Siegel: Yeah, that's so interesting. Yeah. The there's some interesting research kind of comparing food addiction, sugar addiction, with substance abuse and substance dependency. And it's interesting. People, they they'll do these experiments, and what they'll do is they will actually did a whole podcast episode about this, but they'll deprive rats, uh... first of all, it's done on mice, they do it on mice, so that's like question number one. But they'll deprive mice of food and sugar for like days and days and days, and then see how they react. It's like, you're of course, when you are deprived of something that is required, you're going to go absolutely nuts. Yeah. And it's just, it's totally different with a substance that is not required for your survival. Yeah. That's that's my soapbox there.

Um, okay. So last question I have for you, because I think we've, we've talked about some like pretty high level stuff. But like, what is healing your relationship with alcohol, if that's even the right phrase? Like what does that actually look like? Like what does that work really entail?

Amanda Kuda: Yeah. So it's always less about healing your relationship with alcohol and more about healing your relationship with yourself. Because most people who are social drinkers... they don't have an alcohol problem. They don't have, uh, an alcohol dependency. What they have is a self-worth problem.

And... you, I mean, because you know, everyone knows alcohol is not good for you. Alcohol is again, ethanol mix with sugar. We know that it's poison. So if you are knowingly drinking poison for quote unquote fun, there has to be some sort of perceived benefit that you are holding onto that outweighs the potential disaster that could come from drinking poison.

So that benefit is always that it's going to make you more of something that you think is desirable. So it's going to make you more outgoing, more fun, more relaxed. Or it's going to make you less as something that you think is undesirable. So it's going to make you less boring. It's going to make you less tired. It's going to make you less upset. It's going to make you less anxious. So you're always coming into this conversation trying to be more of or less than.

And if you trace that back, that's always a core issue within yourself. That's always a self-worth issue that you don't think you're good enough or that you think that you're too much, um, and not deserving how you are.

Um, because there's, there are very few people out there who can really have the debate with me that they drink alcohol because they like the taste or just because they like it. You know, some wine drinkers perhaps, but for the most part, like, I don't know if you have ever drink, drink, everclear, which is like... don't. That is alcohol in it's like most pure form. If you can drink that and tell me you like the taste, then I'll agree with you. You like alcohol. But for the most part, no. You like the results it gives you. Right?

And so if you're getting a result, that means that you have something inside of you that says that you cannot achieve that result on your own. And let me promise you that you can. You are, you are capable of being fun and outgoing and sexy and flirtatious in whatever it is that you want to be that you're trying to use that little booster to get to. You're capable of being that on your own. So it's never... Healing your relationship with alcohol is never about alcohol itself. It's always about what alcohol means to you and healing that relationship with, with you.

Claire Siegel: That's awesome. That makes a ton of sense. So many parallels with food. It's it's really, really interesting, which is why I want to have you on! So—

Amanda Kuda: Yes!

Claire Siegel: Well, thank you, Amanda. This has been excellent. Where on the internet can people find you and what do you have going on that our listeners should know about?

Amanda Kuda: Yes. So I am at authentically Amanda on Instagram. Um, I'm also at, um, authentically amanda.com.

I'll be running, um, I think early next year, a couple of, um, kind of hybrid programs that are personal development programs with sobriety as the backbone. So we won't really be talking about quitting drinking. I'll be helping you navigate the world alcohol-free, but also help you navigate some important areas of personal development. Because you have the capacity to do so being alcohol-free.

Um, and then the course that I mentioned.. If you are single, um, I have a mindful dating course, and I think it's at authentically amanda.com forward slash mindful dating. That would be a really good resource for you if you are kind of curious about this and just want to see what that would look like.

Claire Siegel: I love it. Okay, we'll be sure to have all that linked to the show notes below. And thank you again. This has been so fun. I'll keep you posted if I decide to do 90 days in 2021.

Amanda Kuda: Oh, I want to hear about it for sure.

Claire Siegel: All right, awesome.

How good was that? I, I mean, I have to tell you, I'm really thinking about doing this whole 90 day alcohol-free thing. You know, I don't drink a lot, but I just feel, I feel called to it. I haven't made a decision yet. Still noodling on it, so don't hold me to it. But if you're thinking about it too, please let me know, send me a DM on Instagram. Maybe we can do it together. I would love an accountability buddy. And, you know, we can do it. We can take it one day at a time. Right?

Anyway, regardless of if you choose to try it for 90 days, if you choose to try it for a week, if you want to go whole kitten caboodle alcohol-free. If you want to change nothing about your relationship to alcohol, that is totally fine, too. It is absolutely up to you.

But I do hope that regardless of your choice, that you enjoyed today's episode, of course. I hope it gave you, um, some opportunity to, to think and to reflect, and I will see you next week. All right? Have a good one, y'all. Bye!



Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

Featuring
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Claire Siegel
RDN, LD
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.
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